Generation Cedar

How to Make Soap

Our skin product business was born out of adversity (you can read our story here), as are a lot of other business ideas. Learn more at How to Make Soap.

About two years into making and selling our products online, we simply got too busy and decided to outsource our work to a wonderful, sweet family we’ve known for many years.

Since we hadn’t made our products in a while, I wanted to show my younger girls how to make soap. We found a really simple recipe using only coconut oil (and lye and water, of course), and swirled it with some chocolate. I love the way it turned out!

We called it Almond Joy, and it was delightfully luxurious.

But as we were making it and I was telling them about the process, I thought it would make a great homeschool project to share with you. So I’m going to link to the recipe we used and share an “idea guide” here in case you decide on a soap-making chemistry lesson.

Coconut Oil Soap Recipe

A few notes to add:

  • To get the chocolate swirl, pour most of the soap into your mould, then sprinkle some cocoa in the remaining soap and drizzle it on top.
  • A thermometer is good, but not necessary. If you can gauge when both your lye mixture and oils are about 100 degrees, your soap should turn out fine.
  • This is a small batch of soap. You can use anything for the mould, but I placed the wax paper down in a small narrow box.
  • This soap gets hard very quickly. We were able to unmold and cut our soap within 12 hours.
  • You can use almost any type of oil to make soap, the earliest soaps being made from leftover animal fat.
  • Options of “add-ins” are almost endless. From every kind of herb, and swirls of colour, to honey, milk and oatmeal, creating new soap can be so much fun.

Learning Lessons

The process that occurs during soap-making is called saponification. Saponification occurs when a fat molecule is broken down by sodium hydroxide (lye) into four smaller molecules; three of the new molecules are soap and one is glycerol. The glycerol molecule keeps the soap moist. Soap molecules have one polar end and one nonpolar end, giving it the ability to attach to oily substances in water. The emulsion is a temporary mixing of two insoluble liquids such as oil and water.

Myths about “Lye soap”

ALL SOAP is made from lye. Soap cannot be made without lye. Since lye, by itself, is a caustic poison, some people don’t understand this. But, when you mix a base with an acid, you form a neutral. This is exactly what happens in the soap-making reaction. The base (lye) mixes with the acid (oil or fat) to form a neutral (the soap). At the end of the process, the soap no longer contains lye, but glycerin, the soothing moisturizer that is good for your skin.

Also, most people don’t realize that most commercial soaps have had most of the glycerin removed and sold in other forms (glycerin is a valuable by-product). Homemade soaps, however, retain the moisturizing glycerin.

For more learning discussions, learn a bit about the history of soap-making.

A Brief History on Soap-making

Check here for some visual inspiration!

Soap pictures

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2 Responses

  1. Good chemistry and history lessons here! We’ll have to try this. I’m just wondering how we’re going to avoid having all the chocolate eaten up before it makes it into the soap, though. 😉

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